Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the ships somewhere in its neighbourhood; and, having laid down a buoy in twelve fathoms, off the north point of the entrance, returned on board, when I found all the boats ahead endeavouring to tow the ships in-shore. This could be effected, however, only by getting them across the stream of the inlet to the northern shore; and here, find. ing some land-ice, the ships were secured late at night, after several hours of extreme labour to the people in the boats.

On the morning of the 13th, the ice being still close ir with the land just to the northward of us, I determined on examining the supposed river in the boats, and, at the same time, to try our luck with the seines, as the place appeared a likely one for salmon. Immediately on opening the inlet we encountered a rapid current setting outward, and, after rowing a mile and a half to the N.W.b.W., the breadth of the stream varying from one third of a mile to four or five hundred yards, came to some shoal water extending quite across.

Land, ing on the south shore and hauling the boats up above high-water mark, we rambled up the banks of the stream, which are low next the water, but rise almost immediately to the height of about two hundred feet. As we proceeded we gradually heard the noise of a fall of water; and being pres. ently obliged to strike more inland, as the bank became more precipitous, soon obtained a fresh view of the stream running on a much higher level than before, and dashing with great impetuosity down two small cataracts. Just below this, how. ever, where the river turns almost at a right angle, we perceived a much greater spray, as well as a

louder sound; and, having walked a short distance down the bank, suddenly came upon the principal fall, of whose magnificence I am at a loss to give any adequate description. At the head of the fall, or where it commences its principal descent, the river is contracted to about one hundred and fifty feet in breadth, the channel being hollowed out through a solid rock of gneiss.

After falling about fifteen feet at angle of 30° with a vertical line, the width of the stream is still narrowed to about forty yards, and then, as if mus. tering its whole force previous to its final descent, is precipitated, in one vast, continuous sheet of water, almost perpendicular for ninety feet more. The dashing of the water from such a height pro. duced the usual accompaniment of a cloud of spray, broad columns of which were constantly forced up, like the successive rushes of smoke from a vast furnace, and on this, near the top, a vivid iris or rainbow was occasionally formed by the bright rays of an unclouded sun.

The basin that receives the water at the foot of the fall is nearly of a cir. cular form, and about four hundred yards in diame. ter, being rather wider than the river immediately below it.

After remaining nearly an hour, fixed, as it were, to the spot by the novelty and magnificence of the scene before us, we continued our walk upward along the banks; and after passing the two small. er cataracts, found the river again increased in width to above two hundred yards, winding in the most romantic manner imaginable among the hills, and preserving a smooth and unruffled surface for a distance of three or four miles that we traced it

to the southwest above the fall. What added ex. tremely to the beauty of this picturesque river, which Captain Lyon and myself named after our friend Mr. BARROW, Secretary to the Admiralty, was the richness of the vegetation on its banks, the enlivening brilliancy of a cloudless sky, and the an. imation given to the scene by several reindeer that were grazing beside the stream. Our sportsmen were fortunate in obtaining four of these animals; but we had no success with the seines, the ground proving altogether too rocky to use them with ad. vantage or safety. We returned on board at thir. ty minutes past two P.M., after the most gratify. ing visit we had ever paid to the shore in these re. gions.

We found on our return that a fresh, southerly breeze, which had been blowing for several hours, had driven the ice to some distance from the land; so that at four P.M., as soon as the flood-tide had slackened, we cast off and made all possible sail to the northward, steering for a headland, remarkable for having a patch of land towards the sea, that appeared insular in sailing along shore. approached this headland, which I named after my friend Mr. PENRHYN, the prospect became more and more enlivening ; for the sea was found to be navigable in a degree very seldom experienced in these regions, and, the land trending two or three points to the westward of north, gave us rea. son to hope we should now be enabled to take a decided and final turn in that anxiously-desired direction. As we rounded Cape Penrhyn at seven P.M., we began gradually to lose sight of the external body of ice, sailing close along that which

As we

was still attached in very heavy floes to this part of the coast. Both wind and tide being favoura. ble, our progress was rapid and unobstructed, and nothing could exceed the interest and delight with which so unusual an event was hailed by us. Be. fore midnight the wind came more off the land, and then became light and variable, after which it set. tled in the northwest, with thick weather for sever. al hours.

In the course of this day the walruses became more and more numerous every hour, lying in large herds upon the loose pieces of drift-ice; and it hay. ing fallen calm at one P.M., we despatched our boats to kill some for the sake of the oil which they afford. On approaching the ice, our people found them huddled close to, and even lying upon, one another, in separate droves of from twelve to thirty, the whole number near the boats being perhaps about two hundred. Most of them waited quietly to be fired at: and even after one or two discharges did not seem to be greatly disturbed, but allowed the people to land on the ice near them, and, when approached, showed an evident disposi. tion to give battle. After they had got into the water, three were struck with harpoons and killed from the boats. When first wounded they became quite furious, and one, which had been struck from Captain Lyon's boat, made a resolute attack upon her, and injured several of the planks with its enor. mous tusks. A number of the others came round them, also repeatedly striking the wounded animals with their tusks, with the intention either of getting them away, or else of joining in the attack upon them. Many of these animals had young ones,

which, when assaulted, they either took between their fore-flippers to carry off, or bore away on their backs. Both of those killed by the Fury's boats were females, and the weight of the largest was fifteen hundred and two quarters nearly; but it was by no means remarkable for the largeness of its dimensions. The peculiar barking noise made by the walrus when irritated, may be heard, on a calm day, with great distinctness at the distance of two miles at least. We found musketballs the most certain and expeditious way of de. spatching them after they had been once struck with the harpoon, the thickness of their skin being such that whale-lances generally bend without penetrating it. One of these creatures being accidentally touched by one of the oars in Lieutenant Nias's boat, took hold of it between its flippers, and, forcibly twisting it out of the man's hand, snapped it in two. They produced us very little oil, the blubber being thin and poor at this season, but were welcomed in a way that had not been anticipated; for some quarters of this “marine beef,” as Captain Cook has called it, being hung up for steaks, the meat was not only eaten, but eagerly sought after on this and every other occasion throughout the voyage, by all those among us who could overcome the prej. udice arising chiefly from the dark colour of the flesh. In no other respect that I could ever dis. cover, is the meat of the walrus, when fresh-killed, in the slightest degree unpalatable. The heart and liver are indeed excellent.

After an unobstructed night's run, during which we met with no ice except in some loose " streams, the water became so much shoaler as to make it

« AnteriorContinuar »